Archive for the Columns Category

General Opinions on the State of Pro Wrestling

Posted in Columns on May 8, 2010 by Grappleholic

I first watched Professional Wrestling when I was 12 years old.  One Monday night in 1999, I decided to watch Raw on a whim, to find out who these “Stone Cold” and “The Rock” characters that all the kids at school were talking about were.  I was immediately hooked, and 10 years later, I’m still a diehard fan, almost in spite of the products themselves.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I did not get into wrestling for the “entertainment.”  I am not an “entertainment” fan.  I am not a member of the “WWE Universe.”  I am a fan of PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING.  WWE tries to pretend it isn’t Pro Wrestling.  Vince McMahon is ashamed of being a Pro Wrestling promoter.  The guys who exchange holds in the ring are not wrestlers.  They’re “sports entertainers” or “superstars.”  “Wrestling” is a dirty word in the WWE Lexicon.  Vince thinks he produces Cirque de Soliel or something.

WWE has suffered a huge decrease in prominence over the last decade, and it’s not hard to see why.  It’s embarrassing.  The show they put on makes you ashamed to be watching it and ashamed to admit to your friends that you’re a fan.  I’m focusing on WWE here, but TNA is even worse.  People have turned to MMA by the boat loads in recent years.  Anyone who follows the business realizes this, but Vince is in denial.  A couple of days ago, the WrestleMania buy rate came in much lower than expected, no doubt partly due to UFC running a PPV the night before.  Vince still claims that UFC is not competition for WWE.  He claims that UFC draws its fan base from boxing fans, while WWE draws theirs from entertainment fans.  That’s as ridiculous as me claiming that chewing bubble gum made me overweight.

Former wrestling fans have turned to UFC in droves.  MMA is less ridiculous and embarrassing to be a part of.  I have not yet made the leap myself, but thanks to the constant pressure of friends who are hardcore MMA fans, I’ve recently been exposed to this rising sport.  I watched the recent WEC PPV, and not once in those three hours was I angry at myself for wasting my time or embarrassed to be watching it.

Professional Wrestling carries a negative stigma anyway.  Why do WWE and TNA make it worse by making their show offensive to the taste and intelligence of their viewers?  WWE tries to pretend that they aren’t Pro Wrestling, but whatever WWE does is what the general public is going to think Pro Wrestling is.  TNA has the ability to be a true alternative and to actually present Pro Wrestling the way it should be, but they have taken the more radical route of being even more stupid, tasteless, and offensive than the kings of stupid, tasteless, and offensive.  Instead of hiring someone who knows anything about Professional Wrestling to run the company, they have washed up has bens from the Monday Night Wars running the company and a man who has never on his own contributed anything positive to the wrestling business and who is quite possibly mentally retarded writing their shows.

The last couple of TNA TV shows have been so offensively bad that I am seriously considering boycotting the product.  The only problem is that I feel a silly obligation to review the shows for my dedicated blog readers.  Other than the MacGruber stuff a few weeks ago, WWE’s main shows are usually only mediocre at worse, but NXT has fallen off a cliff lately.

The NXT concept has lead to one of things I’ve been most angry about, and that is the complete burial of Bryan Danielson.  I’ve come to believe that WWE hired Danielson for the sole purpose of burying him.  Either that, or they’re stupid enough to think that losing every week is going to get him over as a star.  He’s significantly less over now than he was when NXT started.  I don’t mind him losing to Chris Jericho, Batista, or Great Khali, but him losing to green, mediocre jabronis like Michael Tarver, Darren Young, and Skip Sheffield is sickening.  Danielson made his name in the independents and Japan, so WWE has to show that he is not in the league of WWE Superstars or the other NXT rookies.  I’ve seen Bryan Danielson have some seriously great Pro Wrestling matches.  Why does it matter where he made his reputation?  He can make your show better if you will just let him.

The more you lie to yourself and pretend that you’re not what you are, the more you’re going to alienate your most dedicated fans.  TNA has shown that even the most loyal fans can be driven away if you insult them enough.  If it hurts the feelings of your loyal fans and it hurts your business, why do it?

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Believing In Wrestling

Posted in Columns with tags , , , , , , on March 31, 2010 by Grappleholic

We wrestling fans who consider ourselves to be “smart” to the ways of the wrestling business are somewhat jaded.  It’s not that we don’t enjoy watching wrestling.  We do, obviously, or we wouldn’t dedicate so much time to watching and discussing it.  However, I think we enjoy it in a different way than the average fan who just watches to see their favorite wrassler win.  I enjoy wrestling, but I’ve recently realized that I miss the feeling of watching to see my guy win.

I realized this Sunday night when I was watching Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania.  For various reasons, it’s not often that I get the chance to watch a big match spoiler free, but for the past few years, WrestleMania has been the exception.  For 24 glorious minutes, I was a 12-year-old boy again, watching on the edge of my seat, willing my guy to win the match.  As much of a Shawn Michaels fan that I am, I wanted nothing more than for the Undertaker to beat him Sunday night.  Nobody believes retirement stipulations in wrestling anymore, but I believe in the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak.

The biggest part of not caring about who wins and who loses is that nothing that’s on the line matters anymore.  World Championships don’t matter anymore.  They change hands every month, and pretty much everybody even remotely over gets a run with one of them.  Retirement stipulations don’t matter.  Nobody retires from wrestling.  In my formative months as a wrestling fan, one of my favorite wrestlers, Mick Foley, lost a match to Triple H and had to retire.  I was heartbroken.  He promised that he wasn’t going to “prostitute” himself by coming out of retirement.  He wrestled again the next month, retired again, and started wrestling sporadically 4 years later.  In 2010, he’s almost full time again.  In 2008, Ric Flair, the greatest wrestler of all time, lost an amazing retirement match to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV.  The following night on Raw, he had the most amazing sendoff for a retiring wrestler I’ve ever seen.  He was 59 years old and had built an incomparable legacy.  I sincerely hoped that Flair would honor the stipulation and never wrestle a match again.  He did, in November 2009 on that Australia tour, and just a few weeks ago in TNA.

Because of these and other examples, I didn’t remotely believe that Shawn Michaels would never wrestle again if he lost at WrestleMania.  He lost, and even after his promises in his farewell speech on Raw, I still don’t even slightly believe that he’ll never wrestle again.  I don’t know why, but the Undertaker’s streak is the one thing that I believe in when it’s on the line and I feel that it’s being threatened.  It’s not a meaningless championship or retirement stipulation.  If the streak is broken, it’s broken forever.  Why it matters so much to me is unknown and irrelevant, but it matters.

And now to the point of all of this.  I still care about wrestling matches.  I still look forward to a match if I think the wrestling is going to be good.  However, it was great to be, for a little while, just another fan who wanted to see his guy win again.  I don’t experience that often anymore, and I miss it.